Red-Letter Day

Dec. 14, 2006


By Ray Dise

Special to from CVU



Ray owns and operates and regularly contributes volleyball content to E-mail here!

OMAHA - Some days, the toughest thing to do is to watch your friends do what you love to do. For Nebraska's Christina Houghtelling, today was one of those days.


"It is hard, so very hard," said an emotional Houghtelling. "I am just so excited for the team and I wanted them to win. It is just really hard coming off of last year and I've never been out of playing and competing at all my whole life. I want them to win, I want them to do everything; it is the program that matters. It is the effort and all the extra work that they have to put in, that I have seen these girls do. They deserve it. It is just hard when you are not out there to know that you are a part of it and everybody knows that it takes a whole team, the sideline, everybody. It is just harder to convince yourself of that [when you can't get in the match]."


Despite the emotion and the fire that burns inside for Houghtelling to be on the court, the time on the sidelines has not been without benefit.


"I have just grow a lot as person just being on the sidelines," she said. "I now want to be a coach some day, and it has really helped me gain a new perspective. I just learned how to connect with certain players and what to say to certain players to get the motivated. Just seeing the diversity we have on the team and what I can do to help them and the feedback that I can give them, that is basically what I do and that has stayed the same all year."


And time hasn't been without joy, especially with the Huskers meeting the sometimes oppressive expectations and making it to the championship match.


"The exciting part is that we have a chance to redeem ourselves from last year," said the senior, who is taking a medical redshirt this season. "To go in and prove that we are No. 1 for a reason. The crowd, the 17,000 people, is unreal. We just have to soak it in at the same time. It is all just overwhelming at this point."


The NCAA single-match record crowd of 17,014 pro-Nebraska fans was looking for an excuse to erupt, and that excuse came in the third game of the after a phantom double-hit call began a string of six points for the Huskers before UCLA coach Andy Banachowski called his second timeout to stop the run at 21-13. The timeout was to no avail, as Nebraska scored two more points before the Bruins stopped the run at 23-14.


Nebraska's win blocked UCLA from continuing the quest to be come the first school to win 100 NCAA Championships. Currently the Bruins have 99 team NCAA crowns, placing them ahead of Stanford, which has 93 team titles.


With the loss, UCLA's Banachowski completed his 40th season coaching the women of Westwood and he shows no signs of slowing down.


"This was a tremendous setting to be in," he said. "It is a lot of fun to coach in a setting like this, but the real inspiration for me to continue on is these girls right here - the players that I have that I work with every day in the gym. Today is just one day. I enjoy coaching them every single day and that goes back all the way through the spring. This is a great group of kids to work with and I plan to be around for a while."


With Nebraska falling behind quickly in game one, trailing 5-1 to start the match, Nebraska coach John Cook didn't use a time out until the score was 21-17 in favor of the Bruins. Maybe it was the effect of the fans buoying the team to come back and tie the score at 13.


"It is hard for me to say how big the impact [was]," Cook said. "But they may have cost us the first game too because when you come out in that arena and see that whole place filled with red, it is just an unbelievable feeling. You just can't describe it. But it certainly helped, you could feel the momentum change when we started making some big plays and then the crowd got into it. That is when you could really feel the momentum."


Senior libero Dani Busboom, who was the starting setter on the Huskers squad last season, had a different perspective.


"Obviously it is amazing to play in front of that many people," she said. "We knew it was going to be like that, but we were all talking in the locker room about how it really didn't feel like that, 'cause we were so focused on the court and so into the game that we didn't even hear the crowd. I didn't hear them until the very last point and then I heard them roaring. It was awesome."



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